Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Uttarakhand Fury: Rahul Gandhi And A Case Of Bad Timing

By M H Ahssan / Dehradun

It wouldn’t be entirely wrong to say Rahul Gandhi is to the Congress what actor Sunny Deol is to dance.If one were to choose the worst of his several skills – which include a repertoire of wildlife metaphors, a sense of timing and political preparedness – the last two would be the most notable.

His sense of timing continues to be dismal. News of floods and devastation started trickling in from Uttarakhand almost two weeks ago. Yet, there is little logic to explain why he chose to react and visit the state this late. Conflicting reports suggest that Gandhi might have been out of the country when the incident took place and that accounts for the delay.
Even if we put issues of leadership and humanity aside, the most important rules of intelligent politicking demands the face of a national party to be heard and sighted at the site of the disaster without losing any time. Especially when the party in question is already neck deep in trouble and has a election to face in roughly 10 months.

Rahul, as if following the spirit of the juvenile Pappu-Feku banter on Twitter, acted almost as though he was waiting for Narendra Modi to show his cards before he trumped the Gujarat CM in a game of one-upmanship. So, a day after Modi flew down to Uttarakhand armed with chartered planes and luxury buses to sweep Gujarati pilgrims away from their misery, Rahul and Sonia, officially ‘flagged off’ 25 trucks full of relief material to the state.

Now, like it makes sense to question why Modi thought Gujaratis have the first claim on life and relief, it’s equally valid to question why Rahul had to ‘flag off’ relief trucks.

What his gesture did was validate the fact that his reaction to the incident was neither well-timed nor whole-hearted. Else, the trucks could have been sent off without ceremony right? Unless Rahul was giving valuable driving tips to the professional heavy vehicle drivers, one sees to no good reason for him to give them a send off like filmi mothers send heroes off to war.

Soon after Modi-fanatics promoted him to international glory and started calling him Rambo and their #WhereIsPappu promotion trend started dying down, home minister Sushilkumar Shinde declared that VIP choppers should be banned in Uttarakhand as they are interfering with rescue operations.

And even before he could start relishing the fact that he has made the first sensible statement in his political career, Rahul left him with egg on his face. The Congress scion turned up at Uttarakhand reportedly to ‘help people’ as Congress spokesperson Renuka Chowdury told INN.

One, however, has no clue as to how he can ‘help people’ unless the sheer beauty of his face serves as a distraction to the most imaginative of victims stuck amidst death and devastation.  His presence, like Shinde apprehended, would create necessary ruckus and divide the attention of rescue workers and government officers who should be ideally concentrating on the victims at present.

The Congress also hurriedly declared that his visit was not a ‘VIP’ one, he didn’t take a chopper and was driven there in a SUV instead. So, do we presume there were no security personnel hustling crowds, no government officials crowding around him and delaying rescue procedures, and no Congress workers busy clicking pictures of themselves with the very photogenic party leader? It’s impossible to imagine a Gandhi heir, now the face of a political party, moving around the country without security escort.

The tragedy that Uttarakhand is faced with is neither new to the country nor something that was unexpected. Another cloudburst in 2010 killed 1000 people in Leh just three years back. While the enormity of the tragedy is coming to fore just now, past experience should have told political leaders of our country about the magnitude the tragedy could assume right when it broke. Rahul should have made himself visible right then, even if to further illusions about his leadership qualities. But like always, his was a case of shoddy homework.

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